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The use of Intelllectual Capital C reeports: The case of o Italy Maria Sereena Chiucch hi, Marco Giuliani, G Steffano Marassca Department of Management – Università U PPolitecnica delle March he Correspon nding autho or: Maria Se erena Chiuc chi m.s.chiucch hi@univpm.itt Abstract: In th he last two deccades, scholars,, practitioners aand governments have underrlined the relevvance of reportting intellectuall capital (IC). An nalysing the evo olution of IC ressearch (Guthriee et al., 2012, Petty P and Guthrrie, 2000) and cconsidering the fact that somee ‘IC pioneer’ co ompanies, like Skandia, S have abandoned a IC reeporting, a recent stream has pointed out thhe need to inve estigate the usee of IC reports ‘in practice’ (D Dumay, 2013, Guthrie G et al., 2012, Mouritse en, 2006) in order to undersstand whether IC reporting iss something relevant or just a managerial “fa ashion” (Dumaay, 2012, Mouritsen and Rosle ender, 2009, Fi ncham and Roslender, 2003).. h and why IC C reports are ussed by companies and if, how,, Moving from tthese consideraations, the aim of our study is to explore if, how, and why IC measurement an nd reporting practices do (or ddo not) stabilise. In order to achieve a this aim m, a field studyy approach wass adopted (Lilliss and Mundy, 2005, 2 Roslende er and Hart, 20003). More specifically, the pa aper highlights the fact that the t IC report iss frequently a ‘p personal busineess’ and discusses the determ mining role of so ome ‘key’ actorrs (i.e. project ssponsors and project p leaders)) in affecting if, how, and whaat kind of evolution IC reportss and measurem ments may undergo. Further, the paper shed ds light on how w the IC ‘lock-in’ phenomenon n may occur not only in the acccounting dom main but also in others. Finallyy, it contributess to confirmingg the fragility o of IC indicators. Differently from the majori ty of extant sttudies, this one e focuses not oonly on the prroduction of IC C measurementts and reports or on their pe eculiarities, buut also on their use. Moreov ver, it adopts a longitudinal perspective ass opposed to fo ocusing on a speecific moment in time. Lastly, in order to gain a broader vie ew of IC in pract ctice, this paperr offers insightss collected from m several organizations, ratherr than from a si ngle case studyy. o IC measurem ments, benefits and drawbackss of IC reports, ffield study, Itally. Keywords: Inttellectual Capitaal reports, use of

1.

Introd duction

In recent deecades the inttellectual cap pital (IC) discoourse has draawn growing attention of scholars and practitionerss (Guthrie et aal., 2012). Threee main stage es of the IC disscourse can be b identified (G Guthrie et al.,, 2012). The first stage wass characterised d by the use of ‘grand the eories’ to creaate awarenesss about the strategic relevvance of IC in creating and d managing su ustainable com mpetitive advantage, i.e. itt focused on ‘what IC is’ (C Catasús et al. , 2007, Petty and Guthrie,, 2000). The seecond stage, instead, i was centred c on thee impact of IC C on capital markets and va lue creation processes p and d on how IC sh hould be manaaged in order to create valuue, i.e. on wh hat IC does (Du umay and Roooney, 2011, Mouritsen M and d Larsen, 20055, Giuliani, 201 13). The third stage is focu sed on ‘IC in practice’, p i.e. on the use off IC measurem ments and thee interplay between them and IC mobilization and management (Catasús ett al., 2007, CCatasús and Gröjer, G 2006,, me evident thhat the effectss, the benefits, and the draawbacks of measuring m and d Mouritsen, 22009). Indeed, it has becom narrating IC have often been neither realized norr recognized in practice (D Dumay, 2013,, Guthrie et al., 2012). In n here has emerrged a need to adopt an “iin practice len ns” in order to o understand what happen ns in vivo and d summary, th develop ‘a crritical examinaation of IC’ (Guthrie et al., 22012). C discourse, a primary role e is played by IC reporting. It is considered to be a re levant managgerial practicee Within the IC both for intternal purposses, i.e. for visualising, v unnderstanding, and managiing IC, and ffor external ones, o i.e. forr disclosing th he value creaation process and consequuently supporting the value spread prrocess (Abeyssekera, 2007,, Brennan, 20001, Fincham and a Roslender, 2003, Guthhrie et al., 200 01, Lev, 2001, Petty and Guuthrie, 2000, Seetharaman n et al., 2002, Van der Meer-Kooistra and d Zijlstra, 20001). Neverthelless, some ‘IC pioneer’ com mpanies, like Skandia, S havee ( 2012 2) and the m majority of companies that took part inn the Danish IC Statementt abandoned IIC reporting (Dumay, project havee also abando oned this pra actice (Schap er, 2016). Th his has revitalized the queestion of whether IC wass something rrelevant or ju ust a managerial fashion (Dumay, 2012, Mouritsen and Roslennder, 2009, Fincham and d Roslender, 2003). These consideration c here is a need d to investigatte the effects,, the benefits,, s aside, somee argue that th wbacks of measuring and reporting IC inn practice in order o to underrstand to whaat extent IC measurements m s and the draw and reports are used (or non-used) in organizationss and in the market m and wh hich internal aand external elements can n D 2012,, Lönnqvist ett al., 2009, Ca atasús et al., 2007, Catasú ús and Gröjer,, influence theeir fate (Chiuccchi, 2013b, Dumay, 2006). his paper is to o analyse the use of IC repoorts from a lon ngitudinal perrspective, i.e. from their inttroduction up p The aim of th to the preseent, in order to t understand d if, how, andd why IC repo orts are used by companiees and if, how w, and why IC C

ISSN 1479-44111 245 ©ACPILL Reference thiss paper as: Ch hiucchi M, Giuliani M and Maarasca S “The use of Intellectual Capital re ports: The case of Italy” Thee Electronic Jourrnal of Knowled dge Manageme ent Volume 14 IIssue 4 (pp245-255) available online o at www..ejkm.com


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measuremen nt and reportting practices do (or do noot) stabilise. In I order to acchieve this aiim, a field stu udy approach h focused on the Italian context was adop pted (Lillis andd Mundy, 200 05, Roslender and Hart, 20003). o of th he extant literrature regardiing IC reportin ng. The next ssection presen nts the design n The paper starts with an overview e field study. IIn the central part, an attempt will be m made to make e sense out off of the study and the desccription of the dings and to develop d the theoretical argguments of th he study. The paper ends bby presentingg some of thee the case find insights gaineed and the co onclusions drawn, and propposing future research r oppo ortunities.

2.

IC reporting: an analysis a of the t extant lliterature

Although IC h has been debated for nearly twenty yea rs, it is not po ossible to iden ntify a generallly accepted definition d of itt and, consequ methods and tools have be een developeed in order to o comply with h uently, a largge variety of IC reporting m specific IC cconcepts or to t satisfy spe ecific informa tion needs (A Andriessen, 2004a, 2 Sveibyy, 2010). Thiss means thatt reporting IC is still a prob blematic issue e, both from a theoretical perspective and a from a prractical one, as a there is no o work. generally acccepted framew ormative onee IC reporting is an issue that can be approached booth from an ostensive perrspective and from a perfo hnical’ specificities of an ICC report (wha at and how itt (Mouritsen, 2006). While the first approach focusess on the ‘tech r IC generates g on the organizattion. More in n should reporrt), the latterr tries to understand the eeffects that reporting depth, the p performative perspective p adopted in thiis study calls for research that aims to investigate ‘w what IC does’’ (Mouritsen, 2006). For exxample, it exa amines how organizationaal actors deve elop value byy drawing on IC, how IC iss d in practice, how IC elem ments are mob bilized so as tto promote certain effectss understood and how it iss implemented ontext-specificc and invented d within the ssituation in wh hich IC is given meaning, annd how IC can n be used as a which are co promoter off organization nal change (M Mouritsen, 20006, Mouritse en, 2009, Dumay, 2009, M Mouritsen an nd Roslender,, 2009). In all,, the IC perfo ormative rese earch agenda calls for a sh hift of the ressearch focus ffrom the pro oduction of IC C reports to th heir use. In ord der to undersstand the use of IC reports,, it becomes necessary n to uunderstand th he reasons forr reporting IC, the actors invvolved in the process, and tthe main benefits and draw wbacks derivinng from this practice. p e literature, two differeent (although h related) persspectives on ICC reporting (B Brännström ett From the anaalysis of the extant al., 2009) can be identifieed. One perspective focusees on measuring the value of IC and thee other takes as its startingg ment for the vvalue measurring perspectivve springs froom the fact th hat the capitall point the maanagement off IC. The argum market has vvalued the firms’ equity (m much) higher tthan the book value (Edvin nsson and Maalone, 1997, Sveiby, S 1997).. Here, IC reseearch focuses on visualizingg the value al ready generated by an org ganization (Booeker et al., 2005, Fincham m and Roslender, 2003) and d the main ussers of this ki nd of IC repo orts are the external stakehholders. In th he manageriall N 1992).. discourse, seeveral authorss have presented models o f how firms produce value (DATI, 2000, Kaplan and Norton, The logic of tthis perspectiive is that the e recognition, measuremen nt, and reporting of its IC e nables the firrm to managee its resourcess and activitiess and to deliver sustainablee competitive e advantage. In n summary, thhe reasons fo or reporting IC C can be relateed to the man nagement of this t resource aand of the rellated value creation processs or to the disclosure of IC C in order to m make the ‘invissible’ value vissible for the sttakeholders. ovementioned perspective es identify diifferent unde erlying reason ns (or differeent expected benefits) forr The two abo reporting IC tthat can be su ummarized ass follows (And riessen, 2004 4a, Gröjer and Johansson, 2 000, Marr et al., 2003). asuring IC. Table 1: Reassons for analyysing and mea Gröjer & Joh hansson (2000 0)  C Corporate govvernance  Insider gains  Investor decisiions

Marrr et alii (2003))  Strategy fo ormulation  Strategy a assessment & execution

Merger and Accquisitions  M

development,  Strategic d diversifica ation and expa ansion

 C Credit decision ns

 Compensa ation

 T Tradability

 Communiccation to exterrnal stakeholde ers

 N National accou unts

Andriesssen (2004)  Improving I inteernal management m  Improving I exteernal reporting g  Transactional T and statutory motives m

 M Management control c

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It is important to stress that these rea asons are neitther exclusive e nor static. They T can coexxist and changge over time,, t external context c or in m managerial ne eeds (Giuliani, 2009). depending on changes in the nce to the acto ors involved in n the IC reporrting process, some scholarrs have stresseed that they determine d thee With referen implementattion trajectoriies of IC proje ects (Chaminaade and Robe erts, 2003) and also play ‘aa significant role as drivingg forces duringg the early staages in MR [m measurementt routine] devvelopment’ (Jo ohanson et al ., 2001). Morre specifically,, the organizaational actorss become gra adually more engaged in sensemaking and sensegivving processe es (Gioia and d Chittipeddi, 1991) that are useful for assigning a m meaning to IC and for understanding hhow they can n use IC as a heir practical issues (Dumay and Cuganeesan, 2011, Du umay and Roo oney, 2011, Giiuliani, 2016).. In particular,, solution to th according to o Chiucchi (Ch hiucchi, 2013a a, Chiucchi, 22013b), within n an IC reporting project, there are two actors who o seem to be p particularly reelevant: the ‘sponsor’ and tthe ‘project leader’. The spo onsor can be defined as the person thatt promotes an nd legitimizess the IC project within thhe organizatio on; the ‘proje ect leader’ innstead, is the e person thatt develops thee IC project in practice, i.e. the person thhat is actuallyy involved in the design andd implementa ation of the IC C report. ed benefits, naamely improvving the valuee By analysing the literaturee on IC reportting, it is poss ible to identiffy the expecte ocess through h an adequatte managem ent of IC an nd increasing the transpa rency, the quality of thee creation pro organizational disclosure, and the valu ue spread proocess by makiing the invisib ble visible to the external stakeholders.. upports the managerial m deecision processs, enables IC C Moreover, several studies have underrlined that ICC reporting su o onal learning processes, iinfluences th he company’ss l changes annd organizatio management, supports organizationa ue relevant, affects a the finnancial analyssts’ decisions,, etc. (Giulianni, 2013, Mou uritsen, 2004,, market valuee as it is valu Giuliani and Marasca, 2011, Mouritsen n, 2009, Chiuucchi, 2013a, Chiucchi, 200 08, Aboody annd Lev, 1998,, Bukh, 2003,, G 2015 b). Dahmash et al., 2009, Giuliani, 2015a, Giuliani, not all sunshin ne and roses’’, it is also im mportant to un nderstand thee main relate ed drawbacks.. Because reporting IC is ‘n o the extant litterature, draw wbacks can in clude the following aspects: the inabilityy to meet the expectationss According to related to ‘ggrand theoriess’ (Dumay, 20 012), the risk for the IC rep port and its metrics m to rappidly become obsolete in a quickly changging environm ment (Chiucch hi, 2013b, Giu liani et al., 20 016, Giuliani, 2015a), 2 and tthe risk of inccurring a ‘lockk in’ or ‘accou untingisation’ phenomenon n (Chiucchi annd Dumay, 20 015, Habersam m et al., 20133). The ‘accountingisation’’ phenomenon n occurs whenever accoun ntants apply aaccounting solutions to ma anagement chhallenges in an attempt ‘to o make the inttangible tangib ble’, i.e. when n IC measurem ment predomiinates over IC managementt. dies are focussed on the prooduction of IC C measurements and reporrts (Edvinsson and Malone,, While the majority of stud 4b) or on their characteristtics (Giuliani and a Marasca,, 1997, Lev, 2001, Mouritsen and Larsen, 2005, Andrriessen, 2004 pen to researcch. The latter appears to be e the Achilles’’ 2011, Mourittsen, 2009, Giuliani, 2014), their use is aan area still op heel of IC rep porting: despite the pletho ora of proposeed models, their diffusion and a use is nott so widespread in practicee (Dumay, 20113) and earlyy adopters, su uch as Skandiia for instancce, have aban ndoned IC meeasurement and a reportingg practices. Th herefore, we ask: a what happ pens to IC repports once the ey are produced? More speecifically, we are a interested d nding if, how, and why theyy are used or not and if, ho ow, and why IC measuremeent and reporrting practicess in understan stabilise (or not) within companies. c All empirical sttudies conduccted so far are focused on a single case e or a limited d alysis referred d number of caases; thereforre, the analysis is rather fraagmented. In this study we aim to conduuct a field ana to a larger number of com mpanies in ord der to be ablee to capture a variety of experiences andd gain a broad der view of IC C Chiucchi, 201 13b, Giuliani, 2013); we alsso aim to ansswer the call for investigatting IC in pracctice (Dumay,, in practice (C 2013). Furthermore, this paper contrib butes to the eexisting literature by exam mining what haas happened to IC reportss mplementatio on, and it also o answers thee call for IC studies s that have h adopted a temporal lens l (Giuliani,, after their im 2009).

3.

Design n of the stu udy

Understanding the use of IC reports requires focusinng on the exp pectations, on the behaviouur of the actors involved in n why IC reports are used and d the process, and on the process itself. In other wordds, in order to understand iff, how, and w porting practicces do (or do not) stabilise,, we also needd to focus ourr attention on n if, how, and w why measureement and rep the process. This is becausse how questions usually heelp to answerr the why questions (Lukka,, 2007). h adopts the field f study me ethod to invesstigate the abo ovementioned d questions. TThe field studyy method can n This research be considereed a research design that iss focused on a relatively sm mall number of companiess and it lies be etween wide-ranging surveys and singlee or multiple case studies (Lillis and Mu undy, 2005, Roslender R andd Hart, 2003). In particular,,

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we chose the qualitative interview as the informattion collectingg method (Fo ontana and Frrey, 1998, Qu u and Dumay,, U a questtionnaire wass rejected as unlikely to offfer the necessary level off 2011, Kreineer and Mourittsen, 2005). Using detail with rreference to individuals’ pe erceptions. Caase study rese earch was alsso rejected coonsidering tha at it does nott o perceptionss (Roslender and a Hart, 2003 3). By analysinng several orgganisations, itt permit investigation of the full range of ossible to und derstand whe ether an emeergent findingg is simply idiosyncratic too a single organization orr becomes po consistently replicated in several, s and also, a to betterr understand complex phen nomena such as the use of IC reports. behind the focus on Italian firms is twoffold. On the one o hand, from m an analysiss of the extantt literature, itt The reason b seems that ‘Italy has beco ome the new, hotbed of IC research, esp pecially aimed d at working sside by side with w managerss p (Du may, 2013). On O the other hand, as thee authors are Italian it wass inside organisations in deeveloping IC practices’ d good relationships with Italian firms rather th an with foreiggn ones. easier for theem to make contacts and develop Differently from other co ountries, e.g. Denmark, whhere national projects on measuring annd reporting IC have been n n or largge-scale proje ects. Italian co ompanies beggan, on their own o initiative,, launched, in Italy there haave been no national eworks, startinng in differentt points in time, and pursui ng different aims. a to measure IC adopting different frame btain data con ncerning the nnumber of Itaalian companiies that ever produced an IC report, wee Since it was difficult to ob w conducted d in the sprin g of 2014. We W focused on n adopted a sttep-by-step approach. The data collecti on process was companies th hat had prepaared at least one o IC report for internal and/or externa al use. We inccluded in our research onlyy those compaanies which measure m and report IC in tended as th he system of intangible reesources inclu uding human,, organizational, and relatiional capital (Edvinsson a nd Malone, 1997, Sveiby,, 1997). This means that we excluded d which measuree and report only o specific ICC resources, such s as human n capital, for i nstance. companies w w of national and international publicatiions within th he IC field was carried out thhrough SCOPUS. We chosee First, a review this tool beccause it is reco ognized as a high quality aand comprehe ensive publica ation databasse (de Moya-A Anegón et al.,, 2007, Vieira and Gomes, 2009). Second d, we used G oogle libri (th he Italian verssion of Googlee books) to lo ook for Italian n n companies that measuree and report IC. Third, we conducted seearch on Goo ogle to collectt books reportting on Italian data about companies that t have not been thee object of publications p but which hhave self-reported havingg ourth, in orderr to integrate the results off the desk rese earch, some i nformed Italia an individualss measured/reeported IC. Fo (scholars and d consultants operating in the t IC field) w were interview wed; this was done d to help uus understand d whether thee list produced d in the previo ous steps was complete andd, if necessaryy, add any misssing firms. t co mpanies were e identified ass representingg a large percentage of thee Through thiss whole process, a total of thirty-four Italian firms that report IC C. Out of the 34 3 identified oorganizations, we could analyse sixteen of them. As far f as the restt ompanies) is concerned, c fivve of them weere impossible to contact, either becauuse they were e no longer in n (eighteen co business or because therre was no co ontact inform mation for the em on the Internet, and tthirteen firmss declined to o n the research h. participate in t was the semi-strructured interview because e the aim of tthe analysis was w to reach a The main data-gathering technique he phenomen non under stuudy (Qu and Dumay, 2011 1, Kreiner andd Mouritsen, 2005) and to o deep undersstanding of th compare diffferent practiccal experience es within the IC reporting field. Semi-structured inteerviews were selected as a means of datta collection because b they are well suiteed for exploraation of the perceptions annd opinions off respondentss regarding complex and so ometimes sensitive issues aand they also allow the inte erviewer to p robe for more e information n was designed d to explore the t issue of tthe use of IC reports. Thee and elicit claarification of answers. Eacch interview w interviews w were conducteed during the spring and suummer of 201 14; they lasted d one to two hours each and they weree all tape-recorded and then n transcribed for analysis. overcome bias, the analysis was carriedd out through h analyst trian ngulation (Yin,, 2003, Patton, 1990). Thee In order to o work was designed in such h a way that one o of the res earchers was in charge of the t data collecction, while th he others had d d the notes inn order to anaalyse all the evidence. e Posst-communication with thee to examine tthe interview material and respondents helped the authors to ensure the accuraacy of the collected data.

4.

The fieeld study – Data analyysis

The majorityy of the com mpanies that responded too our surveyy and that de eclared they had been measuring and d reporting IC operate in thee private sector (private coompanies 69% %; public comp panies 19%; noon-profit com mpanies 12%).. Worthy of no ote is that 69 9% of the com mpanies meas ured and reported IC for both b internal and external aims and thee

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rest (31%) exclusively for internal aims. None of them produced an IC report only for external aims. Among the companies analysed, only three stopped after the first experience whereas thirteen continued to measure and report IC for some years. The duration of the experience ranged from a maximum of sixteen years to a minimum of one year, at the date of the analysis. We will develop the analysis of the interviews considering the seven companies that are still measuring and/or reporting IC. Since the aim of our research is to understand if, how, and why the IC report and the information on IC are used and if, how, and why measuring and reporting practices stabilise, we are interested in understanding the experience of those that are still measuring IC. Finally, we will also consider the reasons why the projects were abandoned. Table 2: Companies which are still measuring and/or reporting IC Company

Stopped producing

Stopped

Initial Aims:

the ICR (Y/N)

measuring IC (Y/N)

INT/EXT

A

N

N

INT/EXT

B

N

N

INT/EXT

C

N

N

INT/EXT

D

Y

N

INT

E

N

N

INT/EXT

F

Y

N

INT

G

Y

N

INT

The seven companies shown in Table 2 are still using an IC report and/or IC information, and their experiences are different. There are four companies (A, B, C, and E) which are still measuring and reporting IC, and the IC report is closely tied to a supplementary report, the social report in three cases and the quality report in one case. As for the other three companies, which started the IC measurement and reporting projects exclusively for managerial aims, the IC report was eventually abandoned but IC measurement was not. As a matter of fact, in all of these last three cases (D, F, and G), where IC was exclusively or predominantly measured to support IC management, after ceasing to produce an IC report, some IC measures were included in departmental and/or corporate control tools. When asked, those companies provided examples of how some of the IC measures have continued to be produced or of how, over the years, other measures referred to specific capitals (e.g. human, relational, etc.) have evolved. …some of the evolutions I introduced over the last years, especially to control the marketing and sales’ activities, such as, for instance, the monitoring of customer ‘engagement’, the customer relationship value, […], have been, how can I say…, ‘borrowed’ from the IC project… They are the evolutions of some ideas and concepts that emerged during the IC project and of some of the indicators we used there. [Company F] These companies have also used the IC information included in the IC reports to trigger managerial actions. …information on IC led to creating actual and prospective customer databases. This increased the marketing department’s knowledge referred to the market and new actions to acquire customers. For instance, in order to improve the customers’ competences in using company products (which were technology-based) training courses were provided. As far as ‘major customers’ were concerned, instead, activities such as company visits and ad hoc meetings were planned. [Company F]

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These three companies (D, F, and G) share another characteristic: the controller was the project leader (in D and F) or was part of the team that had the responsibility of carrying out the project (in G). These actors seem to have a very relevant and decisive role in pushing IC measurement forward. Thanks to their participation and close cooperation with consultants and researchers in all the steps that characterized the design and implementation of the IC report, they acquired the competences needed to technically ‘master’ the system, became able to manage the IC measurement system on their own, and to push measurement forward. They seem to have had a role in fostering the taking up of IC accounting practices consistent with the company decision-making process that would satisfy managers’ information needs. These controllers reported that they have acquired new competences and knowledge related to other departments in order to promote and/or carry out some activities useful for IC management (e.g. analysis of the quality of the workplace relationships, competitor analysis, etc.). However, they also observed that this has caused problems related to the ‘invasion’ of other departments’ responsibilities and that this has sometimes impeded the continuation of the projects in the proposed direction (e.g. in company D, some projects for measuring relational capital were hindered because the Marketing manager considered them his responsibility). Therefore, in these companies where IC has continued to be measured internally and where it also seems to have had an impact on actions, the controller appears to manifest the characteristics of a ‘business analyst’ more than those of a ‘bean counter’ (Granlund and Malmi, 2002). In three of the companies that are continuing to measure and report IC, the experience of measuring IC was “dragged” by that of social report, thus following in its wake. As a matter of fact, IC is reported as a section of the IC report, and this seems to have determined the ‘fate’ of IC reporting. In two cases, although questions specifically referred to the IC report and to IC information were asked, the interviewees frequently answered referring to ‘social reporting’ instead of to IC reporting, and their comments were referred to social accounting information in general instead of only to IC. With reference to the inclusion of the information on IC in the social report, the interviewee in company B said: …at the beginning, we prepared a social report with included an intellectual capital section. Intellectual capital was something ‘added’ to the social report, also from a physical point of view. In the last few years, intellectual capital got integrated into the section in which we talk about human capital […] and in the one where we talk about relational capital.. In these cases (B, E) IC information seems not only to be dragged by social reporting, but also to merge with it. Something different happened in company C, where IC measures are included in the social report as well, but seem to be used by managers and also seem to have an impact on actions. … even if data is collected by specific departments, it is then shared and discussed by teams, and it can immediately trigger alert signals and actions… The interviewee in company C also stated that the IC indicators have been used by the marketing department to analyse customer satisfaction and also in focus group with employees, with workers’ unions, and with suppliers. Differently from companies B and E, the project leader in company C was the CFO, whereas in the two other cases it was the General Manager (B) and the head of Human Resources (E). Consistently with what we observed for the companies that measured IC predominantly for internal aims, the fact that the project leader was the CFO seems to have some bearing on the use of IC measuring for managerial aims. As far as company A is concerned, in the first years an autonomous IC report was produced and it was useful for supporting a change in management strategy. After some time, the sponsor of the IC report, the General Manager, who was also the project leader and principal user, decided to combine the IC report and the quality report into a single document. In this case, the information on IC was deemed essential to report to the Board of Directors and also to the public administrations funding the company.

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…the Board of Direectors read th he results andd said ‘ah, bu ut are we rea ally like this?!! Is this a pictture of … [the IC rep port] showed d highlighted data and organizational o l values thatt before werre just us?!… intang gibles. I mean n, […] when we got them m written dow wn, we assessed them, wee could give them t a quanttitative/numeerical value…so there was a change. It was w not only ‘theory’ anym more but som mething writteen on paper, something we w could use tto face otherss’ opinions [...] Also, relatiionships with public autho orities were dif ifficult in that period, […] N Now we have data d to tell the em ‘Look! Wee saved you alll these billion n of Euros’. Th his gives us a different d statuus, a different position in the eyes of publlic administra ators… port and/or thhe IC informattion are used ex-post, to unnderstand what happened.. To sum up, in all these casses the IC rep nterviewee de eclare having sset objectives on some mea asures. In all ccases where IC C information n In only one ccase did the in triggered acttions on IC th he CFO/controller was thee project leader and could be considereed a businesss analyst. Thee CFO/controlller seems to have h a role in n pushing forw ward IC inform mation produ uction and in putting it at the t service off managers’ n needs. When the project le eader is the General Man nager, IC information is ussed to accoun nt for his/herr or to external sstakeholders. activity to the Board of Directors and/o ems to be a ‘ppersonal business’ or a bussiness ‘reserveed for very fe ew people’. IC C In all of these cases, IC infformation see b produced because b of th e commitmen nt of one persson (the projeect leader) who sometimes,, information continues to be al Manager, ccoincides with h the principa al user. Whenn the project leader is thee when the prroject leader is the Genera CFO/controlller we noticed d a genuine belief in the ussefulness of th his information for supportting company managementt and a commitment to find ding ways to put it at the sservice of managers by introducing it allong with other controllingg c IC infoormation. tools or by designing new tools which contain ort the main reasons why nnine companie es in our samp ple stopped m measuring and d reporting IC.. To conclude,, we also repo The reasons were varied: the loss of in nterest by thee project lead ders/sponsors, their leavingg the compan ny, managers’’ mpany restruccturing, the ovverwhelming amount of maandatory documents to bee scarce intereest, the financcial crisis, com produced, an nd the fact th hat measuringg IC is time-coonsuming and d requires a high commitm ment by those who have to o collect and p process the information. In some cases ccompanies intterviewees de eclared that t hey abandoned measuringg IC because th he initial prom mises were no ot fulfilled. Forr instance, tw wo companies highlighted thhe fact that th he report wass unable to co ommunicate the t value of the t company IC to specificc stakeholders, i.e. banks. In two otherr cases it wass pointed out tthat the impo ossibility of comparing IC in formation to other compan nies’ informattion made it too difficult to o understand tthe value of th he company’ss IC.

5.

Discusssion and co onclusions

The aim of th his paper wass to analyse th he use of IC reeports from a longitudinal perspective, i.e. from the e time of theirr introduction up to the prresent, in ord der to undersstand if, how, and why the ey are or are not used and whether IC C o to achieeve this aim, a field study approach a focuused on the Ittalian contextt reporting praactices stabilise or not. In order was adopted d (Lillis and Mu undy, 2005, Roslender and Hart, 2003). t use of the e IC reports iss strictly relatted to the IC concept’s sennsemaking and sensegivingg First of all, itt seems that the processes, especially by some s key acto ors. Scholars and practitioners have hig ghlighted thatt IC is a multi-dimensionall oncept that iss widely discu ussed in literaature but stilll largely unkn nown in practtice (Dumay, 2013, Gröjer,, magmatic co 2001, Mourittsen, 2009). Several S studie es have pointeed out that an n IC reporting g project usuaally starts with h a discussion n about what IC is, as it is often o confuse ed with the iddeas of human n resources or o social capitaal or knowled dge (Chiucchi,, G 2013, Giuliani and Marasca, 201 11, Andriessen n, 2004b, Dum may and Cuganesan, 2011).. 2013a, Chiuccchi, 2013b, Giuliani, In other worrds, from an empirical perrspective, IC iis like an emp pty box that needs to be ffilled with a meaning thatt makes sensee for the orgaanization. In fact, the ana lysed compan nies that are still reportingg IC managed d not only to o ‘make sensee’ of IC but also to ‘give itt a sense’ thaat was usefull for them to also make itt understanda able to otherr members of the organizattion and rend der it approprriate for specific aims. As previously p me ntioned, IC measurements m s port or the quuality report, depending d on n became a paart of the strategic control system or a ppart of either the social rep where the IC C concept waas considered most useful for the organ nizational nee eds and (espeecially) for the e aims of thee sponsor and//or of the pro oject leader. In those com panies where e the IC reporrting practice stopped it se eems that thee organization had not maanaged to givve its own seense to IC; in n other words, IC never aacquired an organizational o l d it remained understood only o by a few kkey actors. Co onsequently, when w these peeople quit the e organization n meaning and or their interrests changed, the IC projecct faded into ooblivion.

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The collected evidence also sheds light on the relevance of some key actors in determining the success or the failure of an IC project. As outlined above, some studies have analysed the role of the sponsor and of the project leader in the introduction and implementation stages of an IC project (Chiucchi, 2013a, Chiucchi, 2013b). This study, due to its longitudinal approach, highlights that sponsors and project leaders are crucial in determining the fate of IC projects. They are instrumental in making the IC project last over time if they find something useful in it for themselves, i.e. if the IC report satisfies their needs. At the same time, the sponsor and the project leader seem to also play a crucial role in the project’s failure. The IC project failed when the IC concepts, methods, and tools did not meet the expectations of the sponsor and/or of the project leader. This happened for example when the IC project did not produce the desired benefits in terms of improvement of the corporate image or of the organizational performance. As the CFO of one company said: ‘I carried out the IC project because I imagined that our main shareholder would be interested in it… for me it was a way to be more transparent… but I was wrong, as our main shareholder never read the IC report and consequently, I abandoned the project’. In all, the IC project failed whenever it was not considered ‘worth the trouble’ or when it was considered a ‘private business’, something belonging to and understood by an élite. As a consequence, when interest faded or the results did not meet the expectations of this élite group, or when those people quit the organization, the project eventually dwindled down to nothing. In some cases, it seems that IC was seen as a passing managerial fashion, something that managers ‘had to have’ but without any in-depth knowledge of what an IC project is or what it does (Roslender and Fincham, 2001). As a case in point, the sponsor/project leader of one company observed that he ‘fell in love’ with the idea of analysing IC, that the IC report was his ‘toy’ for a while, till he found ‘a new toy’. The findings of our study lead us to reflect on the IC ‘lock-in’ phenomenon which occurs when IC is introduced from an accounting perspective so that the focus tends to be on measuring rather than on managing (Chaminade and Roberts, 2003, Chiucchi and Dumay, 2015). In the cases we examined, IC entered the organization from different perspectives (accounting, quality, human resources, external reporting, management accounting, etc.), and while in some cases IC got locked into the entry perspective, in a few cases the ‘lock-in’ was avoided and IC acquired, over time, a different focus. In other words, while the literature mentioned above is focused on the typical hypothesis of lock-in, i.e. the one in the ‘accounting world’ where measuring dominates over managing, the examined cases show that IC can also be locked into other ‘worlds’ (quality, social, etc.) depending on its point of entry. The paper also sheds light on the role that a CFO/controller, who is the one that usually designs and implements the IC report, may play in the un-locking process and in the stabilisation of IC measurement practices. Where the CFO/controller takes a traditional approach (bean-counter role) (Granlund and Malmi, 2002) the IC project tends to fail. Instead, whenever s/he plays more of a business analyst role (Granlund and Malmi, 2002), the IC project has greater chances of survival as s/he is able to make IC interesting and useful for the whole organization; in other words s/he is able to operationalize IC and help it evolve from an abstract concept to something concrete. Another aspect to discuss is the use of the IC report. In the archaeology of IC, the IC report was considered a useful tool for understanding the present in order to forecast the future, as IC is considered to be one of the resources that drive future organizational performance (Mouritsen and Larsen, 2005, Edvinsson and Malone, 1997, Sveiby, 1997). In other words, the focus should be on what will happen and this kind of focus should be found both in the content of the IC report and in how the IC report is used. From the analysis it emerges that the IC report is mainly used to ‘have a picture’ of the past, to shed light on the activities carried out, and to see the results achieved by the organization or by specific areas of the organization itself. For example, the IC report was seen as an opportunity to highlight achievements that were not visible in the other company reports (financial report, social report, etc.) such as the ones related to reorganization activities, to quality assurance, to developing social relationships, etc. Thus, the IC report was a way to ‘make the invisible visible’ but where the ‘invisible’ was not an intangible per se but an intangible related to a specific organizational area. This idea also finds support from the fact that in several cases the marketing area did not find the IC project particularly interesting as its activity is clearly visible in terms of sales; on the other hand, the R&D, the HR, the IT and the Quality departments were often particularly interested in the IC report and in the picture it would give of their activity and results. This last point also leads to reflections on the indicators included in the IC report as it is the whole of the indicators that gives a specific perception (a specific picture) of the organization or parts of it. The problems related to the indicators seem to be one of the main obstacles to the stabilisation of IC reports and one of the main causes for abandoning them. More in depth, the analysis confirms that IC indicators tend to have technical problems as they are not self-evident, are ambiguous, time consuming in terms of calculation, and difficult to understand and put in relation to one another (Gröjer and Johansson, 2000, Mouritsen, 2009, Mårtensson, 2009, Catasús et al., 2007, Cuganesan and Dumay, 2009, Dumay and Cuganesan, 2011, Giuliani and Marasca, 2011). In addition, our study shows

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that IC indicators tend to be produced by one area in the company (usually by the controller) (i.e. ‘the producer'), with reference to another area (for example R&D, HR, IT, marketing, production, etc.) (i.e. ‘the observed') and used by top management (i.e. ‘the user’). The existence of these three roles (producer, user, and observed) and the technical problems inherent to the process imply that developing IC indicators tends to be seen as a way of controlling specific organizational areas which are reluctant to be measured with a tool they do not understand and which do not accept being ‘invaded’ by another area. It has to be underlined that this point is not only due to a technical problem but is also a cultural issue; the focus is on the quest for the ‘perfect’ or ‘objective’ measure instead of on the organizational impact of IC (Chiucchi and Montemari, 2016). In summary, if the rise and potential growth of organizational conflicts is recognized in time and the focus is not only on the technical aspects of IC, the IC reporting project is more likely to survive over time. All in all, the fate and the stabilisation of IC reporting practices seem to be determined by aspects related to the IC concept’s sensemaking and sensegiving processes, to the interest, satisfaction, and culture of the sponsor and of the project leader, and to the technical and organizational issues related to the production of the IC indicators and to their backward looking characteristic. These findings have both theoretical and practical significance. This study contributes to the literature on IC ‘in practice’ (Dumay, 2012, Guthrie et al., 2012) as the analysis is developed ‘in vivo’ and not ‘in vitro’. It also sheds light on factors determining the fate and stabilisation of IC practices as the results show what happens after IC concepts, methods, and tools are introduced within an organization. The main limitation of this study is that it was not possible to interview all of the companies that have experienced the creation of an IC report. Nevertheless, we believe that the investigated cases offer a wide picture of what happens in reality. Taking into consideration the extant literature, future research avenues could consist in the analysis of the roles played by the IC sponsor and the IC project leader and of how their personal characteristics can affect IC projects in order to contribute to the research regarding the ‘actors’ involved in an IC project (Chiucchi, 2013a, Chiucchi, 2013b, Giuliani et al., 2016). Moreover, it could be interesting to delve into whether and how consultants have a role in determining the fate of IC projects, as the role of this ‘actor’ has been investigated in other context but not in the IC one (Briers and Chua, 2001, Christensen, 2005, Ittner and Larcker, 2002). In addition, further insights could be gained by comparing the Italian experience with others that have different characteristics. Finally, as our empirics are mainly focused on private organizations and the discourse of IC in the public sector is gaining momentum (Bardy et al., 2016, Dumay et al., 2015, Guthrie and Dumay, 2015, Garlatti et al., 2014), it can be interesting to analyse, from a longitudinal perspective, the use and the ‘fate’ of IC reports specifically in this context.

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The use of Intellectual Capital reports: The case of Italy